Energy & Environment

Trump to shrink Utah national monument

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President Trump told Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) on Friday that he will reduce the size of the state’s 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument.

“I was incredibly grateful when the president called this morning to let us know that he is approving Secretary Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears,” Hatch said in a statement.

Hatch’s office said Trump confirmed the news during a phone call Friday. The White House also announced that the president will visit Utah in December to officially announce the news.


“Protecting sacred antiquities is a matter of critical importance, and Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration found a better way to do it by rolling up their sleeves, digging in, and talking with Native American tribes,” Hatch said. “We’ll continue working closely with locals moving forward to ensure that Utahns have a voice in this process.”

Trump met with Zinke on Friday to talk about the status of his monuments review, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the daily briefing.

She said the White House would “release more details” during Trump’s December visit, “if not before.”

The monument, declared by former President Obama late last year, was one of the most controversial Antiquities Act declarations under review by the Interior Department this summer.

Bears Ears protects Native American artifacts in southern Utah. It was one of the last, and largest, monument designations made by Obama during his tenure, and one that incensed conservatives in the West who have long argued the government has too much power over land spanning several states.

The Interior Department’s monuments review is controversial.

Twnety-six other large monuments designated since 1996 were also subject to an extensive Interior Department review this summer, including Utah’s 1.8-million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.  Trump also told Hatch he plans to shrink that monument.

Conservation groups have aggressively opposed the monuments review, and have threatened to sue over any attempt to undo past monument designations.

“President Trump and his administration will stop at nothing to sell out America’s parks and public lands,” said Greg Zimmerman, the deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities.

“This foolish attempt to erase protections for Bears Ears — or any other national monument — will meet immediate legal challenges, and it is destined to fail in court,” he continued.

Conservatives have long pushed presidential administrations to review their use of the Antiquities Act to set aside federal land has national monuments.

Obama used the law aggressively, prompting oil and mining industries, ranchers and conservatives to ask Trump to review the designations.

This spring, he asked Zinke to review 27 monuments of 100,000 acres or larger designated since 1996.

In June, Zinke said he would ask Trump to shrink Bears Ears, which Obama designated last December. 

Presidents have shrunk monuments in the past, but the power to do so under the Antiquities Act has never been tested in court, something conservationists pledge they will do now.

“Any efforts to take away protections for America’s lands and waters will be met by deep opposition and with the law on our side,” Jamie Williams, the president of the Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

The review is one component of a GOP effort to overhaul the president’s monument-making power.

House Republicans this month advanced a bill to curtail the White House’s power to unilaterally declare large monuments, setting up a fight in Congress over the future of the law.

-Updated 3:42 p.m.

Tags Antiquities Act Bears Ears National Monument Donald Trump Orrin Hatch Orrin Hatch Western United States
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